Help yourself

Help yourself to improve your communication skills!

Remember that the best way to improve your accent, grammar or vocabulary is to find opportunities to learn and practice in everyday life. Some clients might find these resources useful.

Radio

Do you listen to radio that is more than just music? I hope so. It doesn't matter if it's just the "drive" chat programs on commercial radio in the morning and late afternoon, continuous news (ABC News Radio), or in-depth discussion about issues (ABC Local Radio, ABC Radio National). Listening to complicated language helps your vocabulary grow, improves your grammar, expands your knowledge, and makes it easier to understand new voices.

Magazines and books

Many adults haven't read a "normal" book - fiction, stories, biography, etc - since they left high school. University textbooks aren't a substitute for good reading. To improve vocabulary, grammar and expression, you need to be reading complex, unpredictable information (like stories or in-depth news discussion).

Help yourself by trying to read a novel or a biography, or by picking up a copy of an interesting magazine (technical journals aren't a good choice).

If you don't like carrying books around, why not consider buying an "eReader" to read eBooks? Something like the Amazon Kindle which comes in a number of different models, or other eReaders sold at some bookshops or department stores.

Newspapers with simple text, like the Herald Sun or MX in Melbourne are okay to start with, but don't challenge you enough to learn and improve.

Popular magazines like Time or New Scientist are fairly easy to read, or try the magazines in the weekend newspapers. More advanced choices would be The Economist (an international news magazine), The Monthly (an Australian political/cultural journal), or The New Yorker.

Although online versions of newspapers and magazines are often easier and cheaper to access, reading from paper is usually a much better way of learning. If you join your local library, you might be able to borrow copies of magazines and, of course, books.

Depending on your interests, there are of course many websites that you could read, including Wired, Science-Based Medicine, Lifehacker, Crikey, Salon.com, Bad Science, and more.

Websites about English

The internet is overflowing with sites and videos that claim to help you improve your English. Some are good, but most are poor.

Also note that pronunciation sites and trainers in North America are not suitable for people living elsewhere (except if they want to speak a North American English). The American and Canadian accent systems are very different from the British-oriented accents of (most of) the rest of the world.

I would suggest looking at these resources first:

  • I strongly recommend the Pronunciation page from Flinders University. It has a fantastic list of websites that help in various ways.
  • Also try the BBC World Service section on Learning English. Remember, however, that this is aimed more at beginner/intermediate learners and is in British English.
  • Very useful for just hearing the pronunciation of a word is www.howjsay.com. The recordings are usually of acceptable quality. In British English, mostly similar enough to Australian English.
  • A fairly simple guide to some pronunciation symbols used in dictionaries from the Oxford University Press is here. Note that dictionaries can use different symbols.

Books about English skills

Some of these books are popular and respected in language teaching or for developing new skills. I've provided links to two cheap online bookshops which often stock these books, but of course you might find them in your local bookshop too.


One of the best dictionaries for clear definitions and examples. I recommend buying the 5th edition (2006).

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